How COVID-19 Has Forever Changed Customer Behaviour

There’s no question that what we’ve all been through since the start of the pandemic that COVID-19 has changed the way we behave. New research is showing customer behaviour may have changed for good as a result of COVID-19.

Let’s explore what this research tells about changing customer behaviour and what businesses need to do about it.

I was in line at the bank the other day – yes, I sometimes still visit a physical branch – and my mind started to wander, as it does in times like that. I started imaging scenarios of what would have happened if I had walked into a bank branch pre-COVID wearing a mask. Piercing alarms. Tackled by armed security guards with little regard for social distancing. Now I can’t get into a bank – or anywhere – without a mask and it feels pretty normal.

Among the big changes that have occurred in customer behaviour is how we shop. There was a study released recently by the folks at Facebook that highlighted some important lessons to be learned by marketers and businesses that I think are worth exploring.

The study claimed that 81% of consumers have changed at least one shopping habit since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s not that surprising. We’ve all been in various stages of lockdown for nearly two years and have had to adapt. What I find interesting, is that 92% of those of us who changed a habit expect to continue with the new habit even after life returns to normal.

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That’s worth noting. If you were sort of hunkering down and just waiting to get through this, it may be time to shift that thinking. In many ways the consumer we knew before the pandemic may be gone for good.

For me, there are two really big takeaways from this research that I think businesses and marketers need to pay attention to.

The first is the rise of digital impulse shopping. 60% of online shoppers said they have purchased products because they happened upon them while browsing or consuming other content (that number is 49% in Canada). If that’s not a signal that digital advertising is becoming increasingly important to grow your business, I don’t know what is.

The other big takeaway is the confirmation of the importance of influencers and content creators to businesses. There’s a ton written about influencer marketing, but here are a couple of interesting stats from the study I want to share:

  • 51% of consumers get ideas for purchases from influencers and creators
  • 62% of millennials would buy directly from a video from a content creator

Those right there, point to the need to find the influencers important to your ideal customers and build a relationship or advertise with them. They don’t necessarily need to be massive, star-level influencers. There are thousands of “micro-influencers” and small content creators who are already engaging with your ideal clients.

You can use tools like Buzzsumo and SparkToro to find out who they are and then build some bridges. Before you do that, make sure that you’ve properly documented who your ideal client is and what makes them tick.

The key message for me is not to assume things will go back to normal when … things go back to normal. Everything I read and watch is telling me that the change in customer behaviour isn’t a blip, it’s a sped-up evolution that we’re not coming back from. It’s time to adapt and meet your customers on their terms.

How about you? What are you seeing change with your customers?

Want some free tools to help you adapt to this new customer? Check our these free Booster Packs for SEO, website, and content.

The Winning Marketing Strategy Most Businesses Miss

If the numbers from a CallRail study of small businesses’ marketing activities is to be believed, three-quarters of those small businesses are ignoring their best source of quality leads.

Now, I realize you have to take studies like this with a bit of a grain of salt. This one surveyed 600 small businesses in the US. So, not huge and I wouldn’t be comfortable extrapolating the results to represent all small businesses. Still, 600 is a decent-sized number for a business survey and I think we can safely talk about broader strokes from the results.

The number that got my attention was part of a question about what marketing strategies these small businesses currently used. Here’s the list, see if you can guess which one jumped out at me:

  • 57% use social media marketing
  • 49% have a website
  • 43% use email marketing
  • 35% publish a blog
  • 32% issue a newsletter
  • 29% create campaign-specific landing pages
  • 28% gather reviews and testimonials
  • 26% have a referral program
  • 20% use customer relationship management technology
  • 17% use paid search or PPC (pay-per-click)
  • 15% engage in SEO or local search optimization
  • 6% do not do any marketing at all

Now, that over half of these businesses don’t have a website in today’s market is pretty mind-boggling, but the number that REALLY jumped out for me is the 26% that have a referral program. That means that three-quarters of small businesses have no program or plan for getting referrals.

Why am I so worked up about that? Let me explain.

If I think about all the small businesses that I speak to, I’d have to say that 70-80% of them tell me that referrals are where most of their business comes from. If I just count B2B that number is in the 90s.

And it makes sense. Referrals are much easier to close than a lead you get from paid advertising, someone who found your website on Google, or even someone who saw you speak or reads your blog. Why? Because they come to you with an endorsement that takes right to the third stage of the customer buyer’s journey: Trust. Someone they know and trust has already vouched for you.

And yet, most of those businesses tell me that they have no formal referral program, which is in line with the CallRail results. They just let it happen “organically.” Here’s the thing: if you don’t ask for a referral chances are you won’t get one. Even from a truly happy customer.

More than twice as many small businesses are using social media to attract leads, according to the CallRail study. So, rather than spend time and money cultivating leads from people who already trust them, they are spending time and money on raising awareness with strangers through social media.

Don’t get me wrong, social media is a great marketing tool and it has its place in nearly every business’ marketing program, but instead of a referral program? Not a chance.

As a small business, you have got to have a referral program. You need to get new ideal customers from the ideal customers you already have. As I said earlier, they’re more likely to buy and more likely to spend more money. But don’t take my word for it. According to data from the Wharton School of Business, companies with formalized referral programs experience 86% more revenue growth compared to those without.

Okay, have I convinced you that you need to think about a referral program for your business? I hope so. Here are a few parting tips on how to start building your own referral marketing strategy:

  • Identify the type of client you want to get referred to you – write it down so you can describe them to other people.
  • Create a core talkable difference that will make your business memorable. What do you do, or can you do, that will stand out and make people want to talk about you to others?
  • Ask your customers. Don’t just wait for it to happen, explain to them the type of person you would like to have referred to you.
  • Choose an incentive. This doesn’t have to be monetary (although it can be). You can also incent people to refer you business by showing them how they will be helping others by letting you serve the people they refer. Altruism is a huge reason people refer other businesses.
  • Create a Strategic Partner Network. A group of businesses that serve the same ideal customer. You can refer business to each other, but also create joint content like webinars that add more value and introduce yourselves to each other’s audiences.
  • Deliver on your promise once you get a referral. How well you serve a referral customer is likely to get back to the person who referred them. Do it well, and they’ll refer even more people.


This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start. If you want to talk more about a referral program for your business, schedule a free call with me. If you’d like to do a little more reading on your own, I highly recommend The Referral Engine by John Jantsch.

5 Proven Tips to Improve Your B2B Lead Generation Funnel

Congratulation on building your B2B lead generation funnel. You’ve now got an automated salesperson working 24/7 for you to bring in leads. This can transform your business, but launching your sales funnel isn’t the end. Like all things digital, it can be improved through testing and tweaking and I’m going to share with you five areas you can focus on to make big improvements in the quality and quantity of your leads.

If you’re just looking into lead generation/sales funnels, you may want to start with this post. Or if you’re just starting to build your first funnel, this post will walk you through that process.

If you’ve already got a funnel up and running, but it’s underperforming, then keep reading. Think of this process as coaching sessions with your salesperson. There are two phases to your B2B lead generation funnel optimization process:

  1. Look at the numbers to see where you’re not performing well
  2. Test small changes in one area at a time and watch to see if it improves

You’ll apply these phases to each of the five areas of focus outlined below.

Optimizing Your B2B Lead Generation Funnel: 5 Areas of Focus

  1. Traffic source
  2. Landing Page/Initial Conversion Point
  3. Thank You/Upsell Page
  4. Follow up Email Sequence
  5. Final Conversion Point

I recommend you start at the bottom of the funnel and work your way back. Why? Because the bottom of your B2B lead generation funnel is your final conversion point and even a small improvement there can have a big impact on revenue. The exception would be if you aren’t getting any conversions on your initial landing page. Then you have to attack that first.

At each stage you’re going to look at what’s happening based on your metrics (see this post) for the analytics codes you should have set up in your funnel). Things like ad clicks, opt-ins, form completions, email opens and clicks. You’re looking for areas that could be improved and the metric you’ll watch to see if your optimization is working.

Final Conversion Point Optimization

This is the final step in the B2B lead generation funnel that your email sequence has been driving people to. It could be a landing page, or an opt-in right in the email, maybe even a shopping cart. If your conversion rate is low here, look at maybe adding a guarantee, more testimonials, altering the wording, even tweaking the form.

Follow-up Email Sequence Optimization

If your email sequence is not driving any traffic to your final conversion point, or you have a lot of unsubscribes here are some things you can check

  • Is the language really speaking to the ideal client profile and their problem?
  • Are your emails aligned with the message that brought them into the funnel?
  • Test headline variations
  • What’s the frequency? Try increasing it or decreasing it

Thank You/Upsell Page Optimization

So, they’ve opted in on your landing page, but nobody is biting at the upsell you have on your Thank You page.

  • Try adding testimonials or social proof
  • Is the upsell offer aligned with the lead magnet they opted into?
  • If your page is long, try a short version. If it’s short, try a longer version with more explanation of the benefits of taking that next step and the value a prospect will receive
  • Test some technical/design elements like the colour of a button or how much information you are asking for in the form

Landing Page/Initial Conversion Optimization

A common problem with initial landing pages is that there is a disconnect between what drives them here (the traffic source) and what they see on this page. Check that first. Test anything and everything you can on this page (but not all at once). You want to remove all friction and hesitancy to opt-in.

  • Headlines
  • Level of information on the page
  • The form (design and how much information you ask for)
  • Images, try different types
  • Even background colours

Traffic source/Ad Optimization

If your ads are not driving traffic to your landing page here’s where you look to make adjustments:

  • Double-check messaging aligns with ideal client profile
  • Test headline and body copy variations
  • Check your targeting. Maybe you’re serving ads to the wrong people
  • What about your imagery? Have you tried video?
  • If you are driving traffic to your landing page with search, then read this post from Brian Dean at Backlinko for a definitive look at how to improve your SEO.

Once you make progress with the element you begin with, move onto the next. When you get through the entire process, go back and start again. Optimization is a never-ending process. Even a well-performing B2B lead generation funnel will slip from time to time, and results can always be better.

Funnel Building: Creating Your 1st Epic Sales Funnel

Funnel building for fun and profit! I don’t know, it just sounded kind of catchy. What do you think? No?

In a previous post I wrote about what a sales funnel is and how it can help your business and I got a lot of questions asking for more detail on how to actually build one. Funnel building doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does take planning, some basic skills, and the right tools.

For the purpose of this post on funnel building, I’m going to assume you’ve done that planning and you have some of those skills and a tool or two at your disposal. If that’s not the case, then I’d recommend you open up this post in another browser window and start there before continuing. And now …

Funnel Building for Fun and Profit

There are a number of different types of funnels you could build: lead funnels, webinar funnels, sales funnels, referral funnels, re-engagement funnels, the list goes on. For this post, we’re going to talk about how to build a basic lead generation funnel, which is something every business should have running.

A basic lead funnel is going to require 4 things:

  1. A traffic source (often these are ads)
  2. A landing page
  3. A thank you page
  4. An email sequence

Those are the elements of a basic funnel. They can get much more complex with multiple upsells, A/B testing, retargeting ads, and other more advanced elements. For now, we’ll keep it simple.

Funnel Building: Traffic Sources

This is what brings traffic into your funnel. These could be ads (digital or offline), your website, events, online search, affiliate links, the list goes on. The most common, and for many businesses most effective traffic source are ads, specifically Facebook ads.

For most small businesses it’s probably wise to start with Facebook ads, but try other sources as well over time to find out what works. Creating effective digital ads is a book unto itself, so we’ll just cover some high-level basics here.

  • Write your ad copy to speak to your ideal client’s problem. What you write must motivate them to click the link in your ad
  • Make sure your ad copy matches the promise of your lead magnet so there are no surprises when they hit your landing page
  • Write from the perspective of your ideal client, not your company
  • Use as few words as you can and be sure some of those words match keywords that your ideal client is likely to use
  • Choose an image that grabs attention and supports your message
  • Use the platform’s (Facebook, Google Ads, etc.) targeting options to narrow your audience to as close to your ideal client as you can get

For more specifics on creating effective Facebook ads read the three-part series on Facebook ads for small business.

Funnel Building: The Landing Page

This is where people come, enticed by your ad or other traffic sources, and its job is to clearly present your lead magnet offer and get your visitor to opt-in.

Key elements:

  • A headline that matches the promise that sent them here
  • An image or video that helps reinforce the message of your offer
  • A form to capture lead information with a strong call to action (ask for as little as you can to increase your opt-in rate)
  • A summary of the benefits
  • Testimonials or other social proof
  • Analytics so you can monitor success. This could be Google Analytics if you build your landing pages on your website, or built-in analytics if you’re using a landing page tool.

When your prospect submits their information, the logic of the form should add your new lead to an automated email sequence and redirect them to your Thank You page.

Funnel Building: The Thank You page

Your Thank You page should actually be an upsell page. While you have your prospect’s attention, now is the time to nudge them to the next step in your customer journey. That could be to book a meeting, share what they just downloaded, sign up for a webinar, or even just consume more of your content.

Key elements:

  • A confirmation message reinforcing the great decision they just made by downloading your lead magnet (reinforce the value of the lead magnet)
  • A clear call to action to take the next step
  • Your value proposition for continuing on their journey now (could be a special offer, a higher-value offering, or a limited time offer)
  • Specific instructions on how to take that next step
  • A button or mechanism to get the lead magnet they came for (optional*)
  • And once again, analytics.

*You can provide access to the lead magnet on this page, but I prefer to let them know it’s coming via email and have them receive a link to download it in the first email in my sequence. That gets them used to receiving and opening my emails.

Funnel Building: The Email sequence

Once someone opts into the form on your landing page, you want to immediately put them into a nurturing email sequence. For this, you’ll need to be using an email marketing tool like ActiveCampaign, MailChimp, ConstantContact, etc. In whatever system you use, you are going to be setting up an automated campaign that will be sent to your new prospect over a period of time. The emails in that campaign are designed to nudge them towards the next step in the customer journey.

Tips for your email sequence:

  • Continue to add value related to their interests (you know that based on what they just chose to download)
  • Introduce your business, product, or service
  • Connect the value they saw in your lead magnet to the increased value they will realize by taking the next step
  • Share case studies or testimonials
  • Have a direct call to action in each email to take the next step

Next up … how to optimize that newly-built funnel to get better results.

If you’d like help setting up your sales funnel let’s talk. We’ve built funnels for all kinds of businesses and can save you a ton of time and frustration.

What is a Sales Funnel? And How will it Ignite My Business

Creating the right type of sales funnel for your business can help you to dramatically increase your lead generation and sales while at the same time automating your marketing and freeing up time you don’t have anyway. This guide will explain what a sales funnel is and how you can apply it to your business.

Here’s what we’ll look at:


What is a Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel is just a fancy marketing term for how you get someone to move along the path from knowing nothing about you to becoming a customer.

For many businesses, sales funnels are more like sieves. They are a hodgepodge of spreadsheets, hand-written notes, missed appointments, and forgotten follow-ups.

But what if you had a sales funnel in place that consistently brought in leads, weeded out the tire-kickers, and moved the buyers along to purchase? A better funnel also turns those buyers into repeat customers and generates referrals.

Sales funnels can involve live salespeople, but often these days sales funnels are completely automated. An automated, online sales funnel is like a salesperson who works 24/7, 365 and never complains, never asks for a raise, and never takes a vacation. I don’t know many business owners who wouldn’t like one of those.

Why is a sales funnel important to your business?

Sales funnels are important for any business for a number of reasons.

  • Save time & money: An automated sales funnel will function like a live salesperson that runs 24/7. Often in a small business, the main salesperson is also the owner, and their time is stretched thin. By putting in place an automated sales funnel, they can remove much of the time-consuming sales process and spend just a few hours per month monitoring and optimizing their funnel. Or outsource its creation and management entirely.
  • More leads for your sales team: If you have salespeople in your business ask them if they would like a reliable, consistent source of quality leads every week. The right kind of lead funnel can do just that.
  • Increased size of transaction: You can add upsells right into your funnel and increase the size of your average sale with next to no effort.
  • More store traffic: Certain types of funnels can even drive more traffic into your physical store with coupon offers.
  • Improved ROI on advertising: If you’re currently running ads, whether online or off, sales funnels can get you better results for that spend. By pushing that traffic into a funnel built to nurture and convert them instead of to a static landing page, or worse your homepage, and hoping for the best. This allows you to spend more money on advertising, confident that you are getting a strong return, and outmaneuver the competition.

The stages of a sales funnel

The most common definition of a sales funnel contains four stages: awareness, interest, decision, action. And it looks something like this:

Awareness: This is the stage where someone becomes aware that you exist. They may hear about you from your advertising, social media, even a referral.

Interest: Once they know about you, they move onto the next phase where they learn a bit more and decide that you might be someone who can solve their problem. During this phase they’ll typically be doing research, talking to friends, gathering information to find the best solution.

Decision: Once they have all their data, they evaluate and find the businesses best positioned to solve their problem. Whether that problem is selling a house, hiring a consultant, or buying some cupcakes.

Action: This is where the rubber hits the road. They have decided that you can solve their problem, but they still have to take an action or nothing happens. You can still lose a deal right here if you don’t have the right tools in place.

This is a standard definition of a funnel. There is a model that I actually prefer called the Marketing Hourglass. It takes people through, what I believe are a more accurate, seven steps: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, refer. You can read more about this funnel here.

When I work with clients to create a sales funnel that is the model I start with. We build the funnel and all the elements within it to address where the prospect is in the Marketing Hourglass.

What type of sales funnel does your business need?

There are many different types of sales funnels and which type you need will depend on your business. You may even want more than one type of funnel for different purposes.

To figure out which kind of funnel you want to create, think about what you want the funnel to do. As I said, there are many different kinds of funnels, but they fall broadly into four categories:

  • Lead Funnels: These funnels are specifically for generating leads and getting contact information from your future customers.
  • Buyer Funnels: These funnels are designed to actually sell a product or service within the funnel. They’ll often include upsells, downsells, shopping carts, etc.
  • Event Funnels: These funnels are for generating signups for events like webinars, online classes, etc.
  • Other Funnels: There are loads of other funnels that don’t really fit into the categories above. It could be a funnel to prevent the cancellation of a service or a funnel to get subscribers.

Once you define what you are trying to achieve, you can choose the type of funnel that best suits your needs.

How do you build an automated sales funnel?

Once you determine your goal and figure out what kind of funnel you need, there are two phases to creating your sales funnel:

  1. Getting your plan in place
  2. Building the elements

Getting your plan in place involves getting very clear about your ideal client who will be the target of your funnel. You must map out how you will engage with your ideal customer throughout the funnel, or customer journey.

When I work with clients, I go through a series of planning steps to make sure everything is in place before I even think about designing pages or writing emails. Here’s what that process would look like for building a lead funnel:

  1. Determine your product/market fit with your ideal client
  2. Create a lead magnet, something free that ads value and that someone will give you their email address to download
  3. Develop a “try” offer to
  4. Create your core offer that will engage your ideal client
  5. Design your email nurturing sequence
  6. Create your landing and thank you pages
  7. Identify and build your traffic sources

Once you have completed the planning, the second phase is building the actual funnel. Landing pages, thank you pages, lead magnets, email copy and sequences, social media and/or Google ads, etc.

Again, before I start building the actual elements, I like to visually map the funnel. Here’s a sample of what one of those maps might look like:

What is a sales funnel

Visualizing a sales funnel will help you to understand the flow before you start to build individual elements.


Building the elements

A basic funnel is going to require 4 things

  • Ads to drive traffic into your funnel. These can be Facebook ads, Google ads, even print ads.
  • A landing page to capture that traffic and convert them (either into a lead, an attendee, or a customer). If your goal is to capture a lead, then your landing page will have a form prospects can submit. If your goal is a sale then you will build the purchase process into the landing page.
  • A Thank You page to be used as an opportunity to upsell and move them along into the next phase of the customer journey (sometimes you don’t have a next step and it’s just a thank you)
  • An email sequence to nurture and engage your prospect, upsell them, and nudge them along the path, or just deliver what was promised.

Those are the elements of a basic funnel. They can get much more complex with multiple upsells, A/B testing, retargeting ads, and other more advanced elements. For a more detailed walkthrough of the actual building part, read this post.

It also doesn’t speak to the importance of setting up tracking so you can monitor the funnel’s performance and adjust as needed.

Tools for building your sales funnel

There are a ton of tools out there that can make building your own funnel easier. Some are all-in-one like ConvertKit, ClickFunnels, or ActiveCampaign.

You can also build landing pages on your existing website, or with a program like Unbounce or LeadPages. Any email marketing service provider will be able to manage your email sequence, and likely integrate with your website or landing page builder.

My Funnel Building Stack

When I build funnels for clients, these are my go-to tools (I do not have any affiliate arrangements with these companies, I just really like them):

  • Funnelytics – for visualizing, mapping, and monitoring funnels. This is pricey but if you’re building a lot of funnels, or funnels for big ticket items it might be worth considering.
  • LeadPages – for building landing pages. Sometimes I don’t want to build landing pages on my or a client’s website and this tool makes it fast and easy to create them, plus they have a lot of great templates and built-in analytics.
  • ActiveCampaign – for email sequences. AC is, in my opinion, the best email service provider out there. They make it so easy to create and manage email sequences and manage your email lists. You can also build landing pages using AC, but I like LeadPages a bit better for that. Still, you could save some money by doing it all in AC.

Once things are built, you are going to need to install Google Analytics and your Facebook pixel on the pages you build so you can accurately track and optimizes your funnel. If you don’t already have these elements set up on your website, that should be your step 1. Go do it now.

And that, my friends, is how you build a funnel to ignite your growth.

One last thing I’ll say is that it’s not all set it and forget it, though. You will need to keep an eye on things and make adjustments. You may find your ads are not working and have to tweak those. Maybe you’re getting lots of traffic to your landing page, but no one is converting. You’ll need to test whether it’s the page set up or the offer itself.

It will take a bit of time to get things just right, but once you do you will wonder how you ever managed without sales funnels in your business.

If you’d like some help, or to discuss building a sales funnel for your business, get in touch with me and I’d be happy to chat about it.

Forget About Goal Setting If You Want to Succeed

If you want to succeed in life or in business, the secret may not be in goal setting like we’ve heard over and over again by expert after expert.

We’re told to set goals for the grades we want to achieve, for our success in the gym, for the career we want, or the success we want to achieve as a business owner. It’s drummed into us. Just Google “goal setting and success” and see what you get. Last time I checked there were 603,000,000 results.

I am a huge fan of Zig Ziglar. I must have listened to his goal-setting CD a hundred times. I can still hear him saying, in that southern twang of his, “you’ve got to have those goals.” But what if you didn’t?

I was out running one day and listening to an audiobook as I often do on longer runs. The book was Atomic Habits by James Clear. I’m running along listening to James read his book, telling some great stories, when he said something that made me stop in my tracks.

Speaking of his own achievements and failures he said “I began to realize that my results had very little to do with the goal I set and nearly everything to do with the systems I followed.”

It’s such a simple, seemingly innocuous statement, but it really struck me. I began to think of my own attempts at goal setting. I was running at the time, so that’s where my mind started.

Every year I set goals to run certain races and improve my times to certain levels. Without fail, I always set a goal to beat or match my personal best. I don’t always achieve those goals, though. As I thought about it, I realized that the times I achieve those goals are when I have a solid training plan – a system – that I follow religiously.

The years I don’t follow my system, or I try a new one that isn’t quite as good are the years I fail to achieve my goals. But if I didn’t have a goal, if I just grabbed a really good training plan and followed it, I’d still be very likely to see improvement.

The goal matters less than the system.

There is a famous quote from the Greek philosopher Archilochus that you’ll probably recognize; “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

Swap out expectations for goals and training for systems and you have the reason many businesses fail to live up to their potential.

Most business owners set goals. Maybe it’s as formal as two months of team meetings and lots of whiteboarding or it could be you writing some ideas in a notepad as you sit in front of your computer late one night.

Some will achieve some of their goals, many will not. Those who failed didn’t likely fail because the goal was bad, but because they had no reliable system to consistently move them in the right direction.

Here’s another point I borrowed from Clear’s book: winners and losers have the same goals.

Let that sink in. If the winners and losers set the same goals, then why isn’t everyone a winner?

That’s not to say goals are useless. Goals are what set our direction, call them our compass. But your compass won’t get you across the Atlantic. For that, you need a ship, a crew, resources, supplies. A system.

The same is true of your marketing. If all you have are goals like, more website visitors, more likes, more online sales, increased revenue, lower churn, whatever your goals may be, but no underlying system to set the path and track your results, you are in trouble.

The Duct Tape Marketing System that we employ is just that, a system. We’ll help you create your strategy and set those goals. But, more importantly, we’ll build you a system with the right components to get you there.

It starts by ensuring you have all the right foundational pieces in place to maximize future growth and then we pull elements based on your goals that logically lead in a forward direction, building on each other until momentum takes off.

Want to check out what the gaps are in your current systems? Try our free Marketing Checkup and see how you fair.

That’s it for me for now. I have to go lace up the shoes and get out for another run. My system told me so.

How to Create a Digital Marketing Plan that You Can Implement

When you’re trying to create a digital marketing plan, as with anything meaningful, you have to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. That is your starting point for developing a successful digital marketing plan that you can actually implement and track.

Having a digital marketing plan is imperative for the success of your business. Here’s how to go about creating yours.

Begin with strategy before tactics

So many business owners fall for the hot, new marketing tactic of the week. When you have no strategy guiding you, it’s easy to get distracted by the “tips and tricks” you get bombarded with from peers and articles on Facebook or in your inbox.

And that is a surefire way to waste valuable money.

The key element you need to create a digital marketing plan that’s effective? A strategy-first approach.

Ask yourself these questions:

Are you trying to sell to anyone and everyone?
Do you find yourself competing on price too often?
Are you struggling to stand out from your competition?
Are you unsure of what tactics even make sense for you right now?

These are all problems caused by having no strategy, or the wrong strategy. And they can’t be fixed by new tactics, they can only be fixed with strategy solutions.

That means knowing your big picture business goals. Get those well-defined and it will be much easier to put the right tactics in place to make that strategy a success.

Research your current customers

Talk to your current customers.

Your customers are an incredible resource you can learn from to help shape your entire business, your core messages, your products or services, and so much more.

By getting to knowing your customers – especially your best customers – you can uncover the best ways to attract, reach, and better serve the right people. You might think you know what drew your customers to you and why they chose you, but they can tell you exactly why/

Research your competitors

Conducting competitive research is pretty standard when it comes to developing a business strategy. When you create a digital marketing plan it’s so much more than researching companies you consider to be your direct competitors—it’s taking a look at your entire landscape of digital competition.

You want to look at what terms your competitors are ranking for in Google, what kinds of content they’re putting out on their blog, or what kind of ads they’re creating. This kind of research helps you:

  • Learn new ways to serve your customers
  • Understand why other sites are ranking higher than yours in search
  • Uncover the type of content you need to be creating
  • Use data to spot new opportunities
  • Seize new opportunities to gain customers

Promise to solve a problem

“Nobody who bought a drill actually wanted a drill. They wanted a hole.”

This quote illustrates one of the biggest problems, and biggest opportunities, with marketing today. Too many businesses are trying to sell drills – that is they are trying to sell their product or service and that’s all they talk about – and not enough businesses are selling holes – or the solution to a customer’s problem.

People buy better versions of themselves, not products and services. They want to look better, feel better, be more successful, be happier, be thinner, get relief from pain, avoid danger.

It’s your job as a business owner to understand the problems people are trying to solve and match your offers to those very specific problems.

You need to be able to match a very specific type of customer with a very specific need or problem, and a promise to solve that problem in a very specific way.

Map out the customer journey with the Marketing Hourglass

The customer journey is not a straight line. It weaves and winds, goes off the page, and comes back on. But, as businesses, we have to be ready to engage with that customer when and where they are ready to engage with us. The way that people buy today has changed so dramatically that instead of creating demand, we need to organize behavior.

A traditional marketing funnel might have the stages such as Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase. But the thing that the traditional marketing funnel neglects to address is that when it comes to lead and referral generation, a happy customer is your most powerful asset.

This is why at Good Ideas Marketing we utilize the Duct Tape Marketing Marketing Hourglass approach. It consists of seven connected stages customers go through:

  • Know—one of the best ways to become known is through organic search. Start using content to spark interest.
  • Like—once someone knows your business, you need to nurture your leads during this phase by demonstrating your expertise, sharing knowledge, and giving them useful resources.
  • Trust—people buy from organizations they trust. Get your customers involved in content creation. This is where customer-generated videos, case studies, stories, and social media are a major playing piece.
  • Try—this stage is where the audition happens. It’s where you need to really deliver more than anyone. Consider doing a free or low-cost version of what you sell.
  • Buy—time to show real results and keep the experience high in this stage. Think about how you orient new customers, exceed their expectations, and surprise them. The complete customer experience is measured by the end result, not what you did to get the sale.
  • Repeat—the best way to get repeat business is to make sure your clients receive and understand the value of doing business with you.
  • Refer—turn happy customers into referral customers. Create a remarkable experience with your customers that exceeds their expectations so they are compelled to share your business with others.

Every business has these stages, but many aren’t addressing them all. You need to figure out what the journey is like for your ideal customer or people who are looking for the solutions you offer.

Use the Marketing Hourglass framework to map your customer journey. Then, the next step to create a digital marketing plan is to strategically use different types of content at the various stages of the hourglass.

Use content as the voice of strategy to create a digital marketing plan

Content creation is one of the hardest jobs a marketer has to do. All that content – websites, blogs, emails, social media posts, videos, ads – is a ton of work, but when you plan your content with your hourglass in mind, it’s the highest payoff work you can do.

Content has grown beyond just being a tactic—it touches all aspects of your marketing and your business. It powers the entire customer journey and it’s vital when you create a digital marketing plan.

Your audience expects to be able to find information about any product, service, or challenge they face simply by doing a Google search. And if you aren’t showing up, your phone won’ ring. Even if they do find you, they probably won’t move forward with you because you lack credibility in their eyes. People go with solutions they feel they can trust.

You have to use content as your voice of strategy, and the best way to do this is to produce content that focuses on education and building trust at every stage of the customer journey.

Develop a list of quarterly priorities and live by the calendar

As a small business owner, you know there’s always plenty to do and never enough time in the day. But marketing needs to be viewed as a habit that’s ingrained in your daily routine.

We don’t rise to our highest level of goal setting, we fall to our lowest level of the systems supporting our goals.

By planning what needs to be done and when you can stay focused on the activities that will give you the highest return. Start by creating a list of the highest impact items you need to fix or implement for each quarter.

Then, live by the calendar. If you don’t schedule it, odds are it won’t happen.

Something that has worked extremely well for many business owners—who have been trained by the Duct Tape Marketing system—is adding monthly themes around your marketing projects, breaking them up, and spreading them out over the course of the year. If you commit to an annual calendar, you’re more likely to follow it on a consistent basis.

Measure what matters

There are so many things you can measure: sales metrics, social metrics, content metrics, conversion metrics, growth metrics, the list goes on. And one of the hardest things is determining what you should be measuring.

But you can’t measure what’s easy—you have to measure what matters. You can start by doing these 4 things:

  1. Create metrics that serve your priority objectives—pick one or two metrics that will tell you if you are moving in the right direction. Whether it’s your goal to increase customers by X or grow your audience by X, you need to define what metrics make sense for the goals that you’ve set.
  2. Establish target goals for each objective—figure out how you’re going to gather the data you need to gauge whether or not you are on the right track.
  3. Select the tools you’ll use to track your progress—dashboards are an everyday reality for marketers. As a business owner, you need to be able to see what’s happening day-to-day.
  4. Use your results to make improvements—when you’re measuring the right things, you’ll start to see trends, why something happened, and what you might be able to do to make improvements.

Running your business without a fully fleshed-out digital marketing plan is like driving without a map. Maybe you make it to your destination, but you might find yourself taking quite a few detours along the way. You can save yourself a lot of trial and error by using this approach to create a digital marketing plan.

If you’d like to talk about how we can help you and your team create a digital marketing plan for your business, get in touch. We love working with smart people like you!

Getting Started with Facebook Ads Manager

This is the third post in a series looking at how to make Facebook ads work for small businesses.

In the first two posts in this series we looked at how to make Facebook ads more effective by starting with strategy and how to set up a sales funnel using Facebook ads to increase lead generation and conversions.

In this post we’re going to look at getting started with Facebook Ads Manager, including how to create a Facebook ad campaign.

Getting Started with Facebook Ads Manager

If you don’t have a Facebook business page, creating that is step one. Here’s a link that will show you how to do that.

Once you have a Facebook business page for which you are the administrator, there are three ways you can access Facebook Ads Manager:

  1. Use this link to take you to Ads Manager directly.
  2. Go to your Facebook Business page and choose Ad Center on the left menu, then select All Ads. Scroll to the bottom of that page and click on “Show more details in Ads Manager”.
  3. Use Facebook’s Ads Manager mobile app on your phone.

Once you’re in Ads Manager you can look around at all the data and tools you have access to. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, and if you aren’t running ads right now there won’t be much to see.

Creating Facebook Audiences

Before we look at creating any ads, we want to set up our target audiences. To do this, click on the square of dots in the upper-left of the screen and choose “Audiences”.

Here are the audiences you should create:

  1. Your existing email list – upload this into Facebook
  2. Website visitors – for this you need to have the Facebook Pixel installed on your website. If you don’t, get that done and come back to this one in a few months
  3. Ideal Customer Demographics
  4. Lookalike audiences – for audiences 1 and 2

When you are creating these lists, be sure to name them so you will remember what they are.

For the first two audiences, you are going to choose “Create a Custom Audience” and follow the prompts. For your ideal customer list, choose “Create a Saved Audience” and choose from the demographic and psychographic options to make this as narrow as possible while still giving you a large enough list to make it useful. Finally, for your lookalike audiences, choose the “Create a Lookalike Audience”. This last one you’ll have to do after you have given your other audience lists time to populate.

Creating a Facebook Ads Campaign

1. Choose an Objective
Now you’re ready to create an ad campaign. Go back to Ads Manager and navigate to the Campaigns tab. From there click the green “+ Create” button.

Now it’s time to choose your campaign objective. There are 11 options under three categories of Awareness, Consideration, and Conversion. Most often you’ll be choosing from the latter two categories. Here you have to consider what it is you want people to do.

If you want more likes and shares, choose Engagement. If you want to capture leads in Facebook, choose Lead Generation. If you want prospects to visit a page on your website, choose Traffic. And if you want them to take an action on that webpage, choose Conversions.

When I set up a sales funnel for a client, most often I am driving leads to a webpage so they will download a piece of content like a checklist or ebook so we can get their email and nudge them along to the final goal of a purchase. For this, I would use the Conversions objective.

2. Name your campaign
You want to name your campaign something that will enable you to easily tell at a glance what that campaign was. It may be easy now to remember but think two or three years down the road after you’ve run dozens or hundreds of campaigns. You want to know at a glance what it was.

Some things you should consider including in the name:

  • The product or service
  • Campaign objective
  • The timeline

3. Set budget and choose audience

At the next step you should name your Ad Set. This is the section that contains your budget and audience information. When naming it, try to name it after the audience you will be running the ads to.

You can choose a daily budget or a lifetime budget, a start date and an end date. For your audience, you can choose one of the customer audiences you have already set up or create a new one from scratch.

Next you have to choose your ad placements – this is where Facebook will show your ads. You can leave it set to automatic and Facebook will place the ads where the algorithm thinks you will get the best results. This is the easiest approach, and it can be the best in many cases. Facebook’s algorithm is powerful and able to optimize a lot faster than a human.

The caveat to this is that it will optimize for quantity and this is not always quality. One thing I have seen is a lot of low-quality leads coming from the Audience Network. I will often choose manual and deselect this for that reason.

If you’re just getting started with Facebook Ads Manager, though, I’d probably leave it on automatic and monitor to see what you get.

4. Create your ads

For this step use the work you did in developing your core messaging and using the Transformation Worksheet we discussed in the last post to create your ad copy and choose your imagery or video. You can also use an existing Facebook post as your ad if you want.

For some ad inspiration, you can download this Facebook Ad Writing Tip Sheet to get you started on creating some ad copy that will get your ads performing better.

Now you’re ready to launch, monitor, and adjust to keep your ads performing well. You should be in Ads Manager at least once a week to monitor progress and decide if you need to tweak anything. If you do, try not to change more than one element at a time or you won’t know which change had an impact.

I thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you found it useful. We just scratched the surface in this series of posts. Each one of these posts could have been a book if we were to go deep, but it should get started. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or reach out to me by email. I’d love to hear from you.

How to Create Facebook Ads Funnels

This is the second post in a series looking at how to make Facebook ads work for small businesses.

In the first post in this series we looked at how to make your Facebook ads more effective by starting with strategy. We looked at the importance of identifying your ideal customer and your core message of difference that you will use to target and write your ads. I shared an exercise to help you visualize the transformation that the language in your ad would take your prospect through in order to get them to take the next step. I even gave you a copy of a worksheet to help you do it.

In this post we’re going to look at how to set up a sales funnel using Facebook ads that will really crank up the conversions you get from Facebook advertising. We’ll look at three key areas:

  1. What is a Sales Funnel?
  2. The Problem with Facebook Ads
  3. The 3 types of Facebook Ads You Need

Ready to begin?

What is a Sales Funnel?

Simply put, a sales funnel is a lead generation and conversion system designed to attract a bunch of potential customers and nurture them along towards a purchase. A better funnel also turns those buyers into repeat customers and generates referrals.

Sales funnels can involve live salespeople, but often these days sales funnels are completely automated and online. An automated sales funnel is like a salesperson who works 24/7, 365 and never complains, never asks for a raise, and never takes a vacation. How would you like one of those?

The Problem with Facebook Ads

One of the biggest problems I see with Facebook ads are that they are too far down the funnel, too forward. Like an overzealous admirer, they ask you to marry them on the first date. Have you ever heard the expression, “it never hurts to ask”? When it comes to Facebook advertising, it does. When you ask for the sale too soon, you scare off potential customers who just aren’t ready for that level of commitment yet.

These ads are too far down the funnel. Their messaging is geared toward the person ready to purchase, but they’re usually shown to people at the top of the funnel.

Facebook advertising is what we call interruption marketing. (The exception to this is if you are engaging in retargeting, but we’ll get to that later.) In general, you are interrupting someone while they are engaging with something else. Picture this, you’re talking to a friend over coffee and I come up to you, tap you on the shoulder, and say “hey, my chocolate shop is the best in town, why don’t you stop what you’re doing and come buy something?”

What are my chances of success?

Same chances your ad has if you’re asking for the sale too soon. That’s a big reason why so many Facebook ads fail. And websites, too, for that matter. That’s why you need a sales funnel.

There are different levels of customer engagement with your brand and your ads need to account for where your customers are in the sales funnel, or customer journey. There is a much more detailed version of the customer journey that I talk about here, but for the case of this blog, we’ll simplify it down to three phases.

  1. Awareness, or cold
  2. Engagement, or warm
  3. Action, or hot, they’ve visited your website

The 3 Types of Facebook Ads You Need

Awareness Ads

What the ad says

When you’re creating awareness ads, you’re speaking to people who know nothing about you. These ads need to be educational or entertaining to grab their attention.

You should be using the customer’s language we discussed in the last post to acknowledge their problem. Let them know you “get it” and that you can help. Offer them something like a checklist or an ebook that offers some value that they can download by giving you their email address.

How you target

With the knowledge of your ideal customer in hand, use Facebook’s audience segmentation abilities to create custom audience lists that match your ideal customer’s persona.

Pro Tip

Use Facebook’s ad platform and the Facebook Pixel installed on your website to tag those people who engage with your ad. You will then use this for retargeting them in the next phase and also to create lookalike audiences you can also advertise to. Pushing your ads to people who match the characteristics of those who have already shown they respond to them will increase your conversion rates.

Engagement Ads

What the ad says

In your engagement ads, you are inviting prospects to take the next step in the journey. They’ve now identified you as a potential solution to their problem. Offer them a free sample, a consultation, a trial, or a discount on one product, or one aspect of your service. It will depend on your business what the offer is. But make it compelling and make sure it provides more value than the investment you are asking for (whether that investment is monetary or just time and effort based).

How you target

You should be targeting everyone who saw your Awareness ads.

Pro Tip

In addition to retargeting ads, make sure you are also reaching out by email to those who responded to your Awareness ad. Create a series of emails that you can send out to this group that will nudge them towards that same trial offer.

Action Ads

What the ad says

These ads are now going to people who have shown a definite interest in your product or service. It’s time to close the deal. Show them testimonials, reminders of a special offer, use Messenger ads. Drive them to a landing page on your website and really present your core difference. Show them how they will be transformed into the person they want to be.

How you target

These ads go to everyone who engaged with your Engagement ads and also anyone who has visited your website. This is why it’s so important to get that Facebook Pixel installed on your website.

Pro Tip

Make sure you are still using email to nudge people along to this step as well. These are bottom-of-the-funnel prospect so you can also try some Google Ads with the same language to target like-minded prospects.

Once you have set up a funnel for your business you then need to spend time monitoring it and tweaking it. Don’t worry about getting it perfect right off the bat. Just get it going. Then watch the numbers and see where it’s not performing well and fix that.

No leads coming in? Adjust your Awareness ad or audience. No one taking the next step? There’s something off about your Engagement ad. Test some variations there. And just keep going. This is a never-ending process, but it will constantly improve the results of your Facebook Ads sales funnel.

You can eventually have a funnel for every product or service you offer, and multiple funnels for each of those targeting unique customer personas for each.

Funnels are incredibly powerful tools for your business.

Thank you for taking the time with me today. I hope you found this post helpful. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them for you. Either contact me or leave them in the comments.

In our third post in this series, we’re going to take a look at how to get started Facebook Ads Manager and share some tips for setting up a campaign.

Do Facebook Ads work for a Small Business?

If you’ve ever boosted a Facebook post to drive a little more traffic to your website or Facebook page, you’d be forgiven for asking yourself, do Facebook ads work for a small business? Facebook is espoused as a sea of potential customers just waiting to be plucked, but so many small businesses find the only customer in the process is them. When they send their money to Mark Zuckerberg.

And still, a quick Google search will show you hundreds of experts espousing how they built a business on Facebook. Are they lying? How can they have such drastically different results from you?

To know exactly why Facebook ads worked for some these experts, you’d have to read some of their story and decide for yourself if their method works for you. What I’m going to share with you today are some tips and best practices that can help make Facebook ads work for a small business.

This is the first of three posts I’ve written to help small businesses get better results from advertising on Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to be notified when parts two and three drop, In this post, I’ll show you where to start, how to make your ads more meaningful, and tell you why funnels are important to Facebook ad success.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve already accepted one truth that I also believe in. That Facebook, as a platform, provides you access to such a massive audience, it’s very hard to ignore. Still, to success with Facebook advertising will take more than just boosting the occasional post that you feel was really good.

Start with Strategy

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you’ll be familiar with that expression. With Facebook ads, as with anything in marketing, it’s critical to start with strategy.

Facebook gives you the ability to reach a ton of people. Your challenge, to be successful, will be to narrow that audience down as much as possible. You do this by spending some time identifying your ideal customer. If you want more information on how to do that, you can check out this post.

  • Once you go through this process, you should
    Understand your customer’s wants, needs, or frustrations intimately.
    Know what language they use to express those needs wants, needs, and frustrations
    How they frame the issue

Knowing that, you can now look at your business and get very clear about how you solve for that problem and what differentiates you from every other business. More on how to do that can be found in my ebook, 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success.

You will use your core difference to craft an offer to solve for your customer’s pain point. Now, and offer is not your actual product or service, but how you position that product or service. That can be a little hard to grasp at first, but think of it this way: Aylmer’s makes glue. All glue does the same, basic thing: it sticks two things together. But all Aylmer’s did was shout at people and tell them how much better their glue is than other glues that wouldn’t get much attention in a Facebook ad.

If, though, they spoke about how their glue could repair a broken china figurine so no one could ever tell it had been damaged, that would sure get the attention of a teenager who had just had a big house party while his or her parents were out of town. Or maybe that’s just me.

Taking Your Customer on a Journey with Your Facebook Ad

Now that you’ve documented what your customers are looking for and how you uniquely solve for their problem, you can begin to craft an ad that will speak to them. And to do that, you want to take them on a journey from their BEFORE state (which is their current reality) to their AFTER state (which is where they’ll be after buying your solution).

Here’s something important to remember: people don’t buy your product or service; they buy a transformation to a better version of themselves. Your advertising should show them how that can happen by letting you solve their problem.

Here’s an exercise I like to use to map that out. It helps me visualize the story my ad needs to tell, so I can put that into words and images for Facebook. Get copy of the Transformation Worksheet.

In the first column you map out their current state. What they have, how they feel about their situation, what an average day looks like, the status that their current situation gives them (or denies them), and the evil of their current situation. Your product/ service and your ideal customer’s descriptions sits in the middle. On the right fill in what they have after you solve their problem; how having that problem solved feels; an average day in this new reality; their new status; and good side of the good vs. evil statement.

Do Facebook Ads work for a Small Business

In your ad, you should be sure to tell a story that captures not just the HAVE, but the FEEL and the AVERAGE DAY.

If you can get clear on this transformation, writing your Facebook ad will be much easier and the end result much more effective.

This brings us to the end of the first post in this series on Facebook advertising for small businesses. You can read part two here and the third installment here.

In the meantime, use what you’ve learned here to get clear on your ideal customer, your core difference, and then worth through the Transformation Worksheet.

I hope this installment was useful for you. Thank you for taking the time to read it and, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out or leave a comment below.